AQA A level sociology revision resources | Revisesociology.com
This topic is an important part of the Victimology topic, which students of A-level sociology will study as part of the Crime and Deviance option in their second year of study.
The Economic and Social Costs of Crime in England and Wales
The Home Office produces an annual report on the Economic and Social Impacts of Crime, summarising the impacts of crime in England and Wales. The latest report was published in 2018, reflecting on the cost of crime in 2015-16.
The report notes the following costs:
The overall cost to individuals for 2015-16 was £50 billion.
The overall cost to businesses was £9 billion
Violent crime accounts for 75% of the total costs of crime to individuals, but only one third of crimes are violent crimes.
Homicide (murder) is the crime with the greatest overall cost, at just over £ 3 million per incident
Rape (to put it bluntly, but this is the words of the Home Office, has the highest ‘unit cost’ for non-fatal crimes – at just under £40 000 per incident.
TBH this is one of more bizarre tables I’ve seen…
How the Cost of Crime is Calculated
The Home Office includes all of the following when working out costs:
Value of property lost or damaged
Physical and emotional damage to the individual
Lost output as a result of being a victim
Policing and Criminal Justice costs (which will include prison)
Costs of preventing crime (such as security measures).
So if we take into account all of the above, we can see why murder has such as high unit cost – all that lost output from the victim and the cost of keeping the murderer in jail for over a decade (most murders are caught).
Limitations with this data
There are limitations with measuring some of the costs of security – the Home Office uses the revenue of cyber security companies to calculate this for example, but I guess it doesn’t take into account specialists companies have to take on to install and maintain cyber security operations.
It might take into account emotional costs – but what about the costs of ‘fear of crime’ – which the media makes sure doesn’t correspond to the actual risks of crime, which could be creating more anxiety disorders which in turn is linked to a reduction in economic output?
Finally, some of this sounds a bit harsh, such as putting a financial figure on the cost of being a victim of rape, it somehow doesn’t quite get to the ‘real’ cost, maybe?!?
How do patterns of Victimisation vary by social class, gender, ethnicity and age?
Are some people more likely to be victims of crime than others? And how do the characteristics of victims vary by different types of crime?
This post has been written for students of A-level sociology studying the crime and deviance module, it is an introduction to the topic of victimisation, which is explicitly on the AQA’s specification.
NB some of the latest up to date information in this post may well contradict the very probably dated information in your sociology text books!
The statistics below focus mainly on the victims of crime in the United Kingdom?
Characteristics of victims of any crime by ethnicity, social class and age (TCSEW)
(NB it’s currently a telephone survey because of Covid-19 restrictions, before that it was a face to face interview survey, to which it may return at some point!)
The TCSEW reports the following variations in patterns of victimisation for the year ending March 2020:
People of mixed ethnicity were more likely to have been victims of crime than other ethnic groups
20% of people from mixed ethnic backgrounds reported being victims, but the victimisation rates were very similar across all other ethnic groups (varying from 14-17%)
Gender seems to have very little affected on reported levels of victimisation
There were very similar reporting levels for both males and females in all ethnic groups.
The chart below demonstrates the remarkably similar patterns in victimisation by both ethnicity and gender (the only ‘significant’ difference being the higher reported rates for mixed ethnicity).
Younger people are more likely to victims of crime than older people
The chart below shows percentage of people reporting having been a victim of crime by age group – you’ll notice it generally declines as people get older, and there is a marked difference if you compare the 55s and overs with youngest three categories:
There is no obvious correlation between social class background and being a victim of crime.
In fact the picture is complex – there is no variation by class for white people, for black people, the unemployed report much lower levels of victimisation compared to professionals and for Asian people there is a slightly lower chance of being a victim the higher your social class background!
Data from the 2018 CSEW shows that 74% of victims of violent crime were victims once, whereas 26% were victims twice or more (7% three times or more) in the previous year.
Limitations with victimisation data from the TCSEW
These data look at ALL crimes, and the most common types of crime (which have INCREASED MASSIVELY in recent years) are fraud and computer misuse – which are quite likely to be ‘gender/ class/ ethnicity neutral’.
and it may be the case that for more serious crimes there are still significant variations by class/ gender and ethnicity – such as violent crimes including domestic violence and hate crimes.
These data may be invalid because the reporting rates might vary by social class, gender, age and ethnicity – a recent report on the victims of violent crime (see section below) for example found that children were twice as likely to NOT report a crime compared to adults. Also where being a victims of Domestic Violence is concerned, with women more likely to be victims than men, this isn’t the kind of thing you can easily report over the phone, during Lockdown.
And let’s not forget the crimes the TSCEW doesn’t cover victims of State Crime.
Who are The Victims of Violent Crime?
It’s worth looking at who the victims of violent crime are as the impacts are likely to be felt more severely than other types of crime, such being a victim or fraud or burglary.
Extremely low numbers of people are victims of violent crime each year. The report estimates that 2-3% of adults are victims of violence each year, and only 1 in 250 require some kind of medical treatment for their injuries.
Males were at greater risk of violence – both for adults and children
Younger people were more at risk than older people
People from deprived areas were were more likely to be victims – adults from the 10% most deprived areas were almost twice as likely to be victims of violent crime compared to adults from the 10% most affluent areas.
ethnic minorities in general were less likely to be victims of violent crime
The report states that 36% of violence experienced by adults, and 70% by children does not come to the attention of police or a medical professional
Who are the Victims of Domestic Abuse?
One type of violent, interpersonal crime probably not covered in a representative way in the above research is Domestic Abuse, because of its very low reporting rates.
Safe Lives reports the following patterns of victimisation for this type of crime:
90% of victims are women, only 10% are men.
Women from low income households (less than £10 000) were 3.5 times more likely to be victims compared to women from households earning more than £20 000.
The majority of victims are in their 20s and 30s, so as with crime in general, young people are more likely to be victims of domestic abuse than older people.
NB the above stats are based on people seeking help and advice about domestic abuse, so many of these won’t show up on the TCSEW.
If these domestic abuse stats are valid, then women are actually at greater risk of violent crime overall than men. Safe Lives reports that 100 000 women are currently at risk of severe violence at home. (This assumes there isn’t just as many male victims of any violent crime NOT coming forward and reporting their victimisation!).
REPEAT VICTIMISATION is also a horrible feature of Domestic Abuse – SafeLives reports that the average victim is a victim of abuse 50 times over, something which you generally don’t find to anywhere near this extent with being a victim of other types of crime.
Who are Victims of Hate Crime?
Hate crimes recorded by the police have been increasing in recent years according to a recent Home Office Briefing (from 2020).
The vast majority of hate crimes are due to someone’s ethnic background (so basically racist abuse) followed by religion, and around 50% of religiously motivated hate crimes are against Muslims. Anti-semitic crimes have also been increasing steadily.
Crimes against LGBT and Trans people are also higher than you might think – the report notes (based on data from a 2017 survey) that 54% of Trans people have reported experiencing a negative incident outside their home, as have 40% of LGBT people).
The vast majority of victims said they did not report the hate crime against them.
46 million Victims of UK State Crime?
At time of writing 46 million people have received at least one dose of one of the Covid-19 vaccinations. The live count is here.
It is possible to interpret these people as having been victims of one of the largest ongoing State Crime of modern times.
The UK governments has consistently declared the vaccines to be safe, whereas the simple and objective truth is, that by regular medical-trial standards scientists simply don’t yet have sufficient data to comment on the safety of these vaccines.
The fact that the UK government has not been clear about this means that they have misled the British public into taking part in a country-level medical trial without their full and informed consent.
This is in breach of people’s human rights as UN conventions clearly state that citizens have a right to not take part in medical trials.
Now it’s a stretch to make the case for this being a State Crime, as people have the choice to not get vaccinated, but there is pressure there – and the government is a leading voice in this, which could be interpreted as coercion, which opens up the door to defining this scenario as a state crime with 46 million victims and counting.
A recent 2019 study into the causes of violent crime in London found that the proportion of children under 20 living in poverty was the main factor correlated with levels youth violent crime in London Boroughs.
The study was conducted in 2019 by the Greater London Authority, and it took a public health approach to analysing the ’causes’ of increasing levels of youth violence in London from 2013-2017.
Defining and measuring violent crime
The study took a broad, multi agency approach to defining and measuring violent crime. ‘mapping’ their definitions of violent crimes here:
They also used many different sources to identify the upward trend in violent crime, such as hospital admissions for knife attacks, given that so many of these go unreported…
If you know anything about London, it’s already obvious from this chart that it’s the poorest areas such as Hackney and Croydon with the highest rates of youth violence, and the richest areas such as Chelsea with the lowest…
The main ’causes’ of youth violence
The study did a borough wide analysis, as the stats for violent crime were by borough, and found that all of the boroughs in the top ten for youth violent crime also had above average amounts of under 20 year olds living in poverty.
The main factors correlated with youth violence, in order of importance were as follows:
Relevance to A-level sociology
This is a useful update for social class and crime: poverty may only be one aspect of social class, but this study does suggest that more violent crime is committed by the working classes.
This study seems to offer broad support for Left Realism – deprivation and marginalisation register as being highly correlated with levels of youth violence.
Limitations of this study
Already, two years on, the data is four years old, as it only goes up 2019. In this online age, this should have been organised via an Artificial Intelligence so the data is updating automatically!
This only focuses on Youth violence, not crime more generally, so it is not representative of all crime.
Marxists might criticise the study as having narrow definitions of violence, focussing only on street violence and domestic violence, rather than the state-sponsored military violence instigated from the borough of Westminster.
This study might be a little biased – it seems to be coming from a Left Realist Perspective on crime, and (funnily enough) supports a Left Realist view of crime!
The latest figures on Police Stop and Search show that black people are now nine times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched by the police.
This is a key statistics relevant to the A-level Sociology crime and deviance module. And I must say this is a thoroughly depressing trend, as the last time I updated this it was ‘6 times’ more likely, so the disproportion in stop and search has gotten worse!
The figures show that 6/1000 white people were stopped and searched by the police in the last year, compared to 54/1000 black people.
It is also interesting to note that ‘black other’ has a much higher rate than all other ‘black’ or any other sub category of ethnic group.
Asian people are now three times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched.
Why are Black People Stopped by the Police more Often?
This increase in disproportion of stop and search has been investigated by the media recently.
Channel Four News recently put together an item in 2020 covering the topic:
They frame the issue of stop and search in the context of the ‘British Police’s Long History of Race Relations’, reminding us of the following key events:
1981 – Brixton Riots – when young black people felt over policed and Under-protected.
1985 – the death of Cynthia Jarret after police officers searched her home in North London.
The video points out that there were also disturbances over police racism in Birmingham in 1981 and 1985, so this wasn’t just a London issue.
The flawed police inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence by four white men is mentioned next, and the fact that the 1999 Mcpherson Inquiry found the MET to be institutionally racist.
In 2011 Mark Duggan was shot and killed in London while police tried to arrest him, sparking Riots in several cities across the UK.
Finally, during Lockdown, you’re twice as likely to be fined for breaking Lockdown in London if you’re black compared to if you’re white.
The police have responded to the accusations of racism by trying to do more outreach initiatives with communities and recruit more people from Black and Ethnic Minority backgrounds, however, the police’s own figures still show that black people are ten times more likely than white people (I guess they rounded up!) to be stopped and searched by the police.
Black people are also more than twice as likely to die in custody than white people.
The video mainly focuses on an interview with Neil Basu – assistant commissioner for the MET, the highest ranking officer from a minority background.
He agrees there is racism in the police because Racism, but puts this down to the fact that Racism still exists more broadly in the United Kingdom.
And he says the MET are not institutionally racist in terms of policies but in terms of not having equal outcomes, then yes they are.
In short he says that the higher Stop and Search rates of black people is all about society, not the police.
The Police use force more often on Black People…
This recent report (2021) by the HMICFRS found that black people are five times more likely to have force used on them during Stop and Search – such as the police drawing or using Tazers or using handcuffs during the search.
The report also found that around 20% of stop and searches are initiated by officer intuition, so they are ‘spontaneous’, which isn’t in line with national guidelines, and they found that most forces don’t regularly review body cam evidence to check stop and search procedures.
In a way I guess this report backs up what Basu says about the police not being institutionally racist in terms of policies, the problem is that too many police are ignoring formal guidelines and using their (racist?) intuition to stop and search.
The Use of Stop and Search for Drug Possession is also part of the problem
Stops for drug possession account for nearly 60% of stop and search, and drug possession is a relatively minor offence (compared to stops for suspected theft or holding a weapon).
The report suggests that if the police spent less time focussing on this it might help reduce the disproportionality by ethnicity in the stop and search figures!
NB – this raises the question of whether Black People just happen to use and/ or deal drugs more than White people – but the stop and search figures alone can’t tell us this and there is something of a paucity of self-report study data on drug use by ethnicity. I may return to this question in a blog later this month!
Find out More…
For a more detailed look at statistics on ethnicity and crime, please see this post here.
How has the pandemic and the societal reaction to the pandemic (changes in policing practices and lockdown) affected trends in crime?
Some recent research sheds some light on this and offers us a useful update for Crime statistics.
Langton et al (2021) investigated 13 categories of Police Recorded Crime during March to August 2020 to see how they differed from ‘expected’ crime rates based on historical data.
March 2020 was when the first wave of lockdowns began, with the restrictions being eased from July, so the period investigated is really exploring the impact of lockdown wave one on the crime rate!
The research found the following:
Antisocial behaviour and drug crimes were the two crimes which had increased during this period. By April, one month into lockdown, ASB crimes were 100% higher than in previous years, but then came back down to ‘normal’ levels as lockdown restrictions were eased in July.
Theft and robbery saw the most dramatic decreases during lockdown – they were 60% down in April, a dramatic immediate decrease, but then they ‘bounced back’ – heading back up to near expected levels by August! This is most likely related to the restricted mobility during lockdown, and then being lifted.
Burglary, bicycle theft, criminal damage and arson all fell from 30-40% during lockdown and then gradually increased during summer but remained below usual levels. This is possibly due to the domestic nature of these crimes – more people were at home during lockdown, and even though restrictions had been lifted by August, many people had adapted to homeworking by that point.
Public order offences saw the least change – down 20% in April, but then back up to usual levels.
The research also looked at ‘other crimes’ but this is a wide-ranging category so doesn’t really warrant investigation!
How Lockdown Affected Different Crimes
The research displayed its data like this: red is the actual crime rate, the dotted line the expected crime rate based on previous crime trends.
Why did Police Recorded Crime rates change?
The important thing to keep in mind here are that these are just Police Recorded Crime Rates, and policing practices changed during lockdown – new laws meant the police had the power to fine people for just being out for the ‘wrong reason’ or for having too many people at a gathering. So these changes are more about societal changes, NOT underlying changes to the crime rate! This is an important link to the Interactionist/ labelling theory of crime.
Anti Social Behaviour and Public Order offences may have increased/ stayed level because of this – as people ‘protest’ or just break lockdown rules – the police recorded many of these breaches as one of these two crimes.
Having said that, it seems reasonable to assume that some crimes did go down – the fact that people were at home more meant burglaries decreased for example, and bicycle theft as there were less people leaving their bikes around! One also imagines shoplifting declined dramatically!
Limitations of Police Recorded Crime Data
As mentioned above, the changes could be due to changes in policing and/ or changes in law during lockdown, not necessarily any underlying changes in the real crime rate.
Because of changes to policing and the law (new lockdown rules) it’s difficult to make a comparison of the underlying crime rate during lockdown and previous years.
The above analysis doesn’t specifically include two major categories of crime: sexual and domestic abuse, and computer related crimes – two (allegedly) crimes which both increased significantly during lockdown.
Here’s some interesting insight into the study patterns of students and how Lockdown doesn’t seem to be having any affect at all so far this year……
Here’s my blog hits since August 2020….
NB – despite an increase in traffic this year (which is nice) the pattern you see below has been exactly the same for the last few years….
There is a dip in August, over the summer holiday, but a slow build up in early September – I guess as schools but not colleges start earlier, and then we have a stable weekly trend from September through to mid December, except for a dip when half term week comes – NB there is always a slow down on that last week before half term too.
There’s a significant dip during the XMAS holidays, but that’s to be expected, and then straight back up into January, and not how the half term dip repeats itself.
The final pink line is this week’s already only up to Tuesday, so looks like a bumper week – probably teachers threatening tests on the return in a couple of weeks.
Here’s the daily trend for the last month – you can see the weekend tail off too, every week, and then the half term dip at the end, and finally Monday – first day back after half term.
There will be some differences later this year I think….
There’s no formal exams, probably to be replaced by in house tests which will be earlier than the usual exams I imagine, so I’m not anticipating the usual May-June insane peak in views, I imagine it will be less intense and more spread out as the dates of tests will vary slightly from institution to instiution.
Still, up until now, students are very much creatures of habit. Perhaps Positivists had a point? People really are predictable!
According to this New York Times heat map, Covid-19 cases seem to be much more prevalent per capita in developed countries compared to developing countries…
The counts are especially high in America, Europe and South America doesn’t fair too well either.
But the count per capita is much lower in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Analysis from Brookings (source) shows the contrast much more starkly – People in developing countries make up 50% of the world’s population but account for only 2% of covid deaths.
The infographic below shows how many people die from covid (the circle) compared to the other main causes of death – if you look at the left hand side, they are generally poorer countries, on the right, generally richer countries…
Are there really fewer covid cases and deaths in poorer countries?
Brookings suggests the different may not be as great as the statistics above suggest. Because….
The different age profiles – Covid-19 affects the very old more severely – especially the over 70s – and to put it bluntly there are hardly any people aged over 70 in poorer countries, because of the lower life expectancy, whereas in developed countries have a more older age profile.
Differences in detecting and reporting covid-19 as a cause of death. In developed countries we have much better detection capacity and it’s possible that Covid has been mis-recorded as a cause of death when really, because of co-morbidity, something else was really the cause. While in the developing world people may well be dying of (or with) covid-19 but it hasn’t been traced.
in short, remember that these covid-19 death statistics are a total social construction.
However, the statics may lack validity, but government responses the world over have been severe – and this social reaction has had very real negative consequences in rich and poor countries alike!
Relevance to A-level sociology
This material is mainly relevant to the global development health topic, but there are also some nice links here to the problems with official statistics.
Is the world becoming a better place to live? What do the latest trends in global development suggest?
How much progress has been made towards global development since the year 2000?
In this post I examine the global trends in development since the year 2000 according to key statistics from the World Bank, United Nations and other global institutions to try and answer the question: ‘do we live in a better world at the end of 2020 compared to 20 years ago?
I aim to produce a post like this every two years, to keep abreast of the latest trends in Development.
In this post I am focusing on whole world trends, or truly global statistics, so the very highest level of generalisation to provide an overview, in what you might call the Positivist tradition!
However, at the end of 2020 it is especially difficult to make judgements about the extent of development because of the impact of Coronavirus – we simply don’t know what the medium to long term consequences of this will be on global development.
The chances are that Coronavirus will impact the future development of regions, countries and communities within countries in very different ways, so now more than ever it will be important for students to try to qualify any generalisations about development suggested by the global statistics I am looking at below.
Key Indicators of Development
There is considerable debate over what the most valid indicators of development are, because definitions of ‘development’ vary widely. For this reason I include below several indicators of development, including:
The Human Development Index
Gross National Income (GNI) per capita
Extreme poverty statistics (those living on less than $1.90 a day)
National debt as a proportion of GNI
The employment ratio (the proportion of working age adults in employment)
The infant mortality rate
The adult literacy rate
Access to electricity
Peacefulness as measured by the Global Peace Index.
If you want to find out more about exactly what these indicators measure and some of their strengths and limitations you might like to read the following posts:
You can also find further information on some of the specific indicators by following some of the links from my Global Development Page.
Mixed Evidence of Global Development taking place since 2020
Some of the global indicators below suggest there has been significant economic and global development over the last 20 years, other indicators suggest there are significant challenges still facing us as a global population!
For example, the number of people living in extreme poverty has shrunk from nearly 30% of the population to less than 10% while Life Expectancy of females has increased from.
HOWEVER, these are just the global average statistics, and what you need to remember is that the averages will hide variations by country, and variations within countries. The later is especially important to consider – there are regions within some rapidly developing countries that are getting left behind. China and America are two good examples of this.
Some indicators suggest negative trends in development – such as increasing unemployment and increasing violence in some countries, and progress towards sustainable development seems slow.
The Human Development Index
The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Index combines Gross National Income, Life Expectancy and Years of Education into one score.
Practically every country shows positive development having taken place since 1990, when HDI first started tracking.
The two countries with significant declines are Syria and Yemen, which have both unfortunately experienced serious conflicts in recent years.
The total external debt of the 120 low- and middle-income countries was $8.1 trillion at the end of 2019, equivalent to 26% of their Gross National Incomes.
Nearly 40 (1/3rd of) low- and middle-income countries had debts greater than 60% of their GNI, treble the amount which had such ratios in 2010.
About 10 low to middle income countries (9%) had debts exceeding 100% of their GNI, 30% up from the number of countries in 2010.
Depending on what you think the role of debt is in development, this could be seen as counter trend to development. Dependency theorists would certainly see the increasing debt levels of poorer countries in this way.
The proportion of working age adults (15+) in paid employment has declined from 61% in 2000 to 57% in 2020.
This seems to be a counter-trend to development, with what is effectively a 4% increase in unemployment over the last 20 years.
However, this does not take into account the fact that more 16-24 year olds may be in education for longer, increasing wages, the impact of huge numbers of women entering the labour market, or the billions of people who are subsistence workers or work informally, so this indicator is an especially challenging one to interpret in terms of what it tells us about development!
There has been radical progress made in improving the infant mortality rate over the last 20 years – it has reduced from 52.8 per thousand (0.5%) to 28.2 per thousand births (just under 0.3%).
However, the global average is brought down by the higher infant mortality rates in less developed countries, and there is significant room for improvement – in the UK and similarly developed countries, the Infant Mortality rate is only 5 per thousand (0.05%)!
The overall adult literacy rate (of both males and females) has increased from 80% in the year 2000 to 86% in 2020.
6% may not sound like much of an increase, but there is something of a generational factor at work here. One imagines that someone that was 40 in the year 2000 is probably not that likely to become literate by the time they are 60, which is going to be a lag on improving the numbers of people who can read and write.
Most of the improvement above will be due to the increasing numbers of children being taught to read and write at a young age, who then carry this through to adulthood.
Overall the world has become less peaceful since 2009, when Vision of Humanity first started its Global Peace Index.
Today there are 38 countries which are recored as having low to very low levels of peacefulness.
Trends in peacefulness are diverging (becoming further apart) – generally speaking those countries which were more peaceful in 2009 have become even more peaceful (mostly those in Europe), while those which were less peaceful have become even less peaceful (mainly in subsaharan Africa)
While many of the classic indicators of development such as GNI, health and education show signs of positive development, there are clearly challenges remaining – mainly around how to attain better employment levels, and the very serious problems of increasing conflict and how to develop sustainably.
Now they’ve had a day to do some basic analysis of the Scottish exam results the newspapers have had a chance to put their spin on the story – and the narrative runs something like this:
First narrative – ‘Scottish pupils have had their teacher predicted grades lowered by the qualifications authority’.
Second narrative: – Poor Scottish pupils have had their teacher predicted grades lowered more than rich pupils.
Links to both the above are at the end of this article
This makes for a great story, but I think they might be misleading. As far as I can see, this year’s National Five Scottish students have done better than they would, on average, had they sat the exams.
If you compare the previous years’ results with the teacher predicted grades you get to see how exaggerated those predictions were…..
A comparison of previous year’s results with teacher predicted grades and the actual downward-adjusted grades
All of the data above is from the articles linked below – NB the blue column for the least and most deprived clusters is only 2019 data, A-C pass rate, and the exam results I’m looking are the National 5s, equivalent to the English GCSE.
What’s really going on?
Teachers in Scotland grossly inflated the predicted grades of their pupils, by 10% compared to previous years on average.
They exaggerated the results of the poorest students more than for rich students (bloody left-wing teachers that is!)
The exam authorities modified the results downards, but the results received are still much better than the previous years, showing an improvement.
The poorest students have improved dramatically.
It’s highly unlikely that this bunch of students is hyper-successful compared to previous years, so thus unlikely we would have seen an increase in 10% points in the pass rate.
I think the real thing to keep in mind here is what really goes on in exams – pupils sit them, they are marked, and then stats magic is done on them so we end up with a similar amount of passes and grades distribution to the previous years – so it’s hard-wired into exams that little is going to change year on year.
That’s what we’re seeing here – the exam board adjusting to fit the results in with business as usual, but they’ve had to compromise with those optimistic teachers trying to game the system, and as a result, excuse the pun, this year’s Scottish students have done very well, especiallly the poor.
The students who should be angry are last year’s – they’ve lost out relative to this years, next year’s probably too, and those poor mugs actually had to sit their exams, and didn’t get four months off school!
This probably won’t be the way it’s spun in the media – it’s easy enough to find a few students a parents with individual axes to grind, against the overall trend of the 2020 cohort doing very nicely, thank you teachers!
The relationship between social class and educational achievement is one of the main topics within the sociology of education at A level.
The problem is, the government does not routinely collect statistics on the relationship between social class and educational achievement!
Instead, we have to reply on statistics which look at the relationship between household income and educational achievement, rather than the relationship between social class and educational achievement.
Household income is related to social class, but income alone does not tell us exactly which social class someone is from. Some parents might work in traditionally ‘working-class’ jobs which could be very well paid, such as the building trades; while other parents might be earning a limited amount of money working part-time in traditionally middle-class jobs – as private music teachers for example.
Also, income does not necessarily tell us about the cultural aspects of class – how well educated parents are or how much social and cultural capital they have, for example.
Thus you must remember that household income indicators are only proxies for social class, they may not show us precisely what a child’s social class background is.
Two sources we might use to to examine the relationship between social class and educational achievement are:
Free School Meal (FSM) achievement rates compare to non FSM achievement rates
Data on independent school results compared to government schools results.
The Achievement of Pupils Eligible for Free School Meals
Three is a 13.7% achievement gap in the ‘attainment 8’ scores of pupils eligible for Free School Meals compared to non-FSM pupils
In 2019 parents in households with a gross annual income of no more than £16190 were entitled to claim for Free School Meals. (Source).
This means that approximately the poorest 1/6th of households are eligible, so the above statistics are comparing the results of children from the poorest 1/6th of households with the richest 5/6ths all lumped into one.
One limitation with the above statistics is that if you were to stretch this comparison out and compare the poorest 1/6th with the next poorest 1/6th and so on up to the riches 1/6th, you would probably see much starker differences.
Independent School Results Compared to State Schools
If we look at the top 10 independent school results compared to the top 10 state schools, we see quite a difference in results.
In order to be able to pay the fees to get your children into an independent school, you have to be comfortably in the top 10% of households. There are a few scholarships for pupils from poorer households, but not in significant numbers!
Top 10 independent schools
Top 10 state schools
You can see a clear 8-9% difference in achievement in favour of the fee-paying independent schools.
One advantage of the above stats is that it’s much more likely that you’re seeing the solidly upper middle class in these schools, rather than this just being about income.
However, we are only talking about the the top 5-10% of the social class scale, we are not able to make social class comparisons more broadly.
If we use the above data, we can see there is a drastic difference in the achievement rates at the very top and the very bottom of the household income scales.
IF we think household income is a valid indicator of social class, we can also say there are huge social class differences in educational achievement based on the above statistics.
However, we don’t have systematic, annual data on the relationship between the vast majority of middle income households and educational achievement.
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